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Justice Beyond Copenhagen

Last night DC was lucky enough to host an all-star panel of global justice activists in a panel discussion called "Evaluating Copenhagen: What it Means for Ecology, Economy, and Equity", convened by leading global justice organizations.

Among the panelists were longtime friends of ours at Global Trade Watch. They included leaders the Global Justice movement like Martin Khor from the South Centre, Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians, Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and Gopal Dayaneni from Movement Generation. I'll discuss some highlights below the video.

These experts and leaders left very little doubt that the fight to avert climate catastrophe is the fight for the direction of the global economy; that climate justice + trade justice = true global justice.

If, as panelists noted, the climate negotiations will eventually lead to the rewriting of the global economy then global institutions like the WTO and other unfair institutions of trade and development will have to change dramatically. For decades, social movements have resisted the globalization agenda of the international corporate elite. With the threat of climate change, the world has been forced to pursue fundamental economic transformation. That transformation presents tremendous opportunity, and so comprises the silver lining on the dark, looming clouds of possible climate catastrophe.

Problem is that too few of us in the global north are connecting the dots between the struggles of the global justice movement with the current fight for a fair climate deal.

Before I say more, here are some highlights from a few leaders and thinkers who are:

- Early on Maude Barlow makes the explicit connection between the unfair and anti-democratic process that played out in Copenhagen as parallel to what we see at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. Rich countries ganging up and bullying poorer countries, divide and conquer tactics, and 'green room' -esque VIP meetings where the 'real' decision are made, without voices of poorer countries or marginalized peoples (min 7:00).

- Martin Khor makes clear that by proposing to cap emissions, that leaders are "negotiating not only the future of humanity and the earth, we are also negotiating the distribution of the future GNP of the world" [emphasis mine].  Because the five major issues areas in the working groups "are no longer about climate science" only, shifting the global economic and development paradigm is explicitly required to avert catastrophic climate change. He then criticizes the exclusive and anti-democratic process, reminiscent of the WTO process, that produced the controversial Copenhagen Accord (beginning around min 11:30).

- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz points out the importance of the historic first inclusion of language regarding human rights and land rights of indigenous and local peoples in the climate negotiation document. Also, like the movement for global economic justice at the WTO, she emphasized the wisdom of using an inside-outside strategy to influence the negotiations inside AND support the social movement mobilizations outside the convention center (min 31:00).

- Victor Menotti notes how the each of the food, finance and climate crises has been caused by neoliberal economic orthodoxy that privileges corporate power over democratic governments,  and by capture of global institutions like the WTO by corporate interests (min 38:00).

A spirited discussion followed, delving into a wide array of issues:

- Gopal Dayaneni insisting that a real solution will require indigenous and local peoples winning back rights over their land, ecologies and development paths (min 44:00).

- Maude Barlow pointing out the hypocrisy of countries negotiating new trade deals that further enshrine corporate economic development paradigm that relies on over-consumption and over-extraction, while purporting to green themselves in the climate negotiations (min 51:00).

- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz takes on the question of climate debt, and how indigenous peoples have led the fight to solve the problem by opposing fighting corporate extraction projects and with them the "dominant economic development paradigm" that facilitate it (min 1:06).

- Victor Menotti relates how lessons from fighting the WTO teach that we need to call out corporate power and spotlight who wins and who loses under proposed climate solutions and their corollary economic underpinnings. If we recognize that its not a poor country vs. rich country dynamic, but a fight of corporate elites vs. the rest of us (min 1:13).

The overall upshot of the panel was that the proper venue for solving the climate crisis is the U.N. Indubitably. Just solutions will not emerge from a more exclusive and corporate-captured venues like the G-20 or WTO.

The lesson here for movement builders and campaigners is another. These experts, all steeped in peoples' movements for a more just and sustainable world, call us to act now for justice beyond Copenhagen, and beyond the next climate summit in Mexico. To answer their call we must fundamentally challenge what Victoria Tauli-Corpuz calls the "dominant economic development paradigm" - one that not only causes global warming emissions but one that sews the very injustices and inequities that Gopal Dayaneni points out are what enable over-consumption and over-extraction.

Thus a good climate agreement is not, as Martin Khor mentions, just a matter of climate science or emissions targets. It never really was. There are those within the alter-globalization movement that highlight the need to turnaround failed trade policy in order to actually stave off climate change, and the youth climate movement does as good a job as anyone linking the struggles of people in the global south with those in the global north.

But to create sufficient pressure behind real solutions we've still got a long way to go. We need to find common strategies for building a revitalized movement for global justice - a progressively more holistic and vibrant one that bridges all the gaps that have divided us. That means organizing to confront every single global institution that promotes the "dominant economic development paradigm" like the WTO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (and other development banks), and fight back against corporate control of our governments, especially the G-20 governments key to governance of each of these institutions.

The global justice and climate movements, then, are inextricably linked. In fact they are one in the same. and we must seize the moment and unite. Tuesday night's visionary voices from the global south, and others representing marginalized people in the global north, proclaimed the need for just this sort of solidarity. We must continue to push the climate fight beyond the science and into the realm of global social, economic, and ecological justice for regular working people across the globe.

We in the global north need to step it up while the planet still hangs in the balance. You can almost feel the forces aligning, and hear the ranks forming. If we continue to grow together, an unprecedentedly vibrant movement awaits us.

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